"The humanitarian toll of twenty years of fighting-some 1.5 million deaths and the massive displacement of populations, famine, and the ruin of the country's economic base-has not figured prominently in international policy on Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said." (Human Rights Watch Report, 7/15/2001)
Listening to Renee Montagne schmooze with Tom Hanks and Mike Nichols about the film, Charlie Wilson's War, you'd never know the horror that backgrounds the movie. As is so frequently the case, the full history of the story gets mangled on NPR and no attempt is made to rectify it. A healthy antidote to NPR's Hollywoodized glorification of Wilson and Gust Avrakotos (his CIA partner-in-crime, literally) is Chalmers Johnson's piece on the George Crile book Charlie Wilson's War. Johnson points out a few ugly truths: Wilson was no "liberal" as stated on NPR; he supported Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, and Avrakotos was the CIA's man in propping up the Greek facist generals in the late 1960s.
The interview on NPR also continues the line that the US only began supporting Muslim extremists ("Muslim freedom fighters" as Montagne still insists on calling them) after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Robert Gates (yes him!) mentioned in his memoirs that the US began funding the Mujahadeen six months before the USSR invaded and Brzezinski confirmed as much in interviews in 1998. It was a sordid affair indeed. Not only Gates is still with us, but Mike Vickers, a nasty CIA thug with a history in Honduras, was also involved with Charlie Wilson - and is now highly placed Pentagon official.
You'd never know any of this listening to NPR this morning. And it would never even dawn on you that over a million civilians have perished in Afghanistan's Soviet-American nightmare. No instead what you learn is:
- Its a "rollicking good story." - Montagne
- "Charlie loved the Davids of the world as opposed to the Goliaths..." - Hanks
- "Charlie is one member of a colorful trio...there's Gust Avrakotos..." - Montagne
- "Gust was the real deal..." - Hanks
- "they both [Wilson and Avrakotos] happen to be guys who tell the truth casually and constantly." - Nichols
- "this story is a tricky one, obviously..." - Montagne